Inspiring Through an Epidemic: How to Motivate Your Employees During Difficult Times

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Being an inspiring leader is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it is exceptionally so in times like these. The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it fears and anxieties, obstacles and burdens, the likes of which many of us have never seen before.

Article 5 Minutes
Inspiring Through an Epidemic: How to Motivate Your Employees During Difficult Times

You’re trying to lead a team faced with unprecedented challenges, all the while trying to cope with those same challenges yourself. There’s simply no roadmap for being an effective leader in times like these.

But those same skills that brought you and your team through hardships before may well be the ticket to getting you through this dark period. You just need to ramp up your creativity and compassion. This article will show you how.

Get that team spirit

The first thing to remember as you and your employees learn to live and work in lockdown is that you’re still a team. As you lead your team through this transition, take pains to reinforce your team’s continued connectedness. Reach out to them early and often, not only individually, but also as a group through online meetings. Do whatever you need to do to keep that spirit of accountability, team building, and support going, even if at a distance.

Make communication, preferably through some sort of video conferencing, a part of your team’s daily work-from-home routine. Not only will this provide a sense of normalcy, but it will also help your employees fight the sense of anxiety and isolation that the quarantine often incites.

Show your softer side

Let’s face it, we’re all going through something with this pandemic. Your workers need to know they’re not alone in their troubles. Above all, they need to know that you understand their fears, disappointments, and questions because you share them.

Allow your employees to discuss their experiences and anxieties. Give them time to vent about the virus, about quarantine life, about the challenges of working from home. Open up and let them see what you’re going through as well.

Now is not the time to pull out Ms. Manners’s etiquette book. It’s not the time to insist on strict professional decorum. Now is the time to show your and your company’s humanity. Best of all, the more you talk, openly and honestly, to your employees the more you will learn about how to lead them through this crisis.

Get creative

We’re all navigating uncharted waters here, and there’s perhaps never been a better time to innovate than right now. After all, the pandemic is requiring many of us not only to change the ways we do our work but to change how we even think about or understand our work.

And that’s a prime time to try to address the shortcomings of the old way of doing things. Help your employees to think more critically and creatively about their work by encouraging them to take breaks and head outside. Taking a regular walk or even working for periods of time outside can boost creativity and critical thinking. Especially when stuck inside for most of the working day, if it’s possible to get outside for break times, your employees should.

Host virtual meetings at least twice a week and use a “round-robin” approach to ask each employee, in turn, to identify at least one specific thing about the new remote environment that is working well, and then to identify at least one specific problem.

Spend at least five minutes discussing with your team how the benefit might be expanded on or applied in a new way. Then spend at least as much time discussing potential solutions to the problem the employee described. That will get the staff’s creative juices flowing and, hopefully, will inspire them to continue problem solving long after the meeting ends.

Challenge them to identify new opportunities that the pandemic may have created, or simply revealed. That might include anything from pinpointing unmet needs in products or services, targeting new customer segments, or simply innovative work processes.

We’re all far outside of our comfort zones at the moment, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you can challenge your employees to see the promise and the potential of this extraordinary moment in history, you may well find that your staff is more motivated and engaged than ever before.

Reward, appreciate, repeat

No question about it, you need your employees as much as they need you. So when you have a team that is willing to stick with you and to fight with you through these difficult times, then you know you have something great.

So if you want to keep your employees motivated, you need to let them know, early and often, how much you appreciate them. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Recognize, specifically and publicly, the unique contributions of each team member. Show your team, every day, and in ways both large and small, that you appreciate all they do for you, for the team, and for the company.

The takeaway

Life under lockdown is hard. But work, even at a distance, can be a saving grace. The key is understanding how to motivate and inspire your employees through these most challenging of times. It all starts with protecting your teams’ relationships, showing that you are still united, even when you’re working apart.

It’s also important to show your humanity, to share with them your own challenges, your own fears. Create a safe space for your team to talk about their worries and frustrations and don’t be afraid to share your own. Use this extraordinary moment to encourage your team’s ability to innovate and problem-solve. And, above all, take every opportunity to show your team how much they’re appreciated, to acknowledge each employee’s unique and invaluable contributions in this difficult time.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, politics, and more. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected]


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